Manchester VA nurse to throw out first pitch at Red Sox gameBy PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader May 06. 2018 9:33PM
MANCHESTER — A nurse with the Manchester VA Medical Center has been selected to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston next week.
Jeffery Ballard of Brookfield, an RN with Manchester VA Medical Center’s Home Based Primary Care team and a member of the Army National Guard for nearly 20 years, is one of 10 nurses who will be recognized during a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park on Boston Red Sox Nurse Appreciation Night on Tuesday, May 15. Ballard will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Sox take on the Oakland A’s, after he was named the top vote-getter in a contest at Nurses.org where people could choose among 10 finalists to receive the honor.
“This is a dream come true,” said Ballard. “It was great to be chosen like this, and all the support I received from everyone. It’s very exciting.”
Ballard was nominated for consideration for the honor by his wife Stephanie. Just a few months after the pair were married in 2009, Ballard deployed to Afghanistan, where he served as an infantry medic. He was injured while serving in combat, and after several surgeries and months of physical therapy, Ballard was able to return to bedside nursing after being home for 14 months.
Reached by phone Sunday as he headed back to New Hampshire from a National Guard training weekend in St. Albans, Vt., Ballard thanked his wife for submitting his name for consideration.
“In the time after I came back, she was there for me,” said Ballard. “I had PTSD and I was in denial, but she worked with me and convinced me to get help.”
After learning he was named the 2018 Red Sox Nurse Hero, Ballard said he decided he wanted to use the opportunity to help bring awareness to the PTSD issue and those suffering from it.
“When I was having a hard time and struggling with PTSD there were people who knew me, and knew I wasn’t OK,” said Ballard. “What would have helped is if they said something to me like, ‘Are you OK?,’ or ‘What is going on?’”
Ballard said starting a conversation about PTSD can make “all the difference,” and stressed the importance of connecting veterans with their local VA.
“If someone had just asked, I think it would have helped me to acknowledge and move past the denial that I was suffering from PTSD,” said Ballard.
When he speaks with veterans suffering from PTSD like he was, he offers hope through his personal story of recovery.
“It gets better, and you can find your new normal,” said Ballard. “When it helps somebody, I am happy to share my story.”
Ballard said he grew up playing baseball, and has recruited his son Tyler, 16, to help get his arm ready for next Tuesday night.
“I was talking about it with some of the guys in the Guard this weekend,” said Ballard. “If I screw this up, they’ll never let me forget it.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders. To access the confidential toll-free hotline call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. To text with a responder, send a text message to 838255.
These confidential support options are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can connect veterans directly to providers at the Manchester VA.